For Kate Hofman, who co-founded GrowUp Urban Farms in 2013, producing food in this 6,000 square feet building in Beckton was not only clever and cost-effective, it was also a sustainable way to feed people in the city.
“We’re trying to show that you can have an industrialised food system … but you can do it in a way that’s sustainable,” said Hofman, who launched Britain’s first commercial aquaponic farm – a system that uses fish waste to fertilise crops, which in turn filtrate the water used to farm the fish.
As two thirds of the global population are forecast to live in cities by 2050, compared with about half now, urban planners and policymakers are increasingly looking to agriculture in towns and cities as a solution to provide nutritious food.
Land used for farming in cities and the areas around them equals the size of the European Union, a recent study said, while others estimate some 800 million urban farmers provide up to 20 percent of the world’s food.
Unlike imported produce, food from city farms and gardens travels less, reducing production costs, waste and fuel use.
“Because are in proximity to an urban population, they can see for themselves where their food is coming from. This has a benefit in terms of education and reconnecting food with the consumer,” said Makiko Taguchi, an urban agricultural expert at U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization.
Hofman also sells 4 tonnes of fish each year and believes the ethical farming of fish provides a sustainable source of protein, especially at a time when nearly 800 million people worldwide do not have enough to eat, according to FAO. Though Hofman doesn’t think urban farming could ever replace existing food production systems, she hopes to pioneer ways to scale up the output of urban farms.